How To Handle PayPal Payment Failures Automatically

PayPal will make up to three payment attempts with 5 days between each attempt. PayPal notifies SubscriptionBoss of the payment failure with a PayPal IPN. You can configure SubscriptionBoss to run an action set on both payment failure and payment success in the Payment Event Actions section of the subscription.

Screenshot of the SubscriptionBoss Payment Event Actions

Campaign For Handling A Subscription

Typically each action set will just add a tag then activates an Other Event in the campaign. The campaign sequence that is linked to that event handles either the order, the cancellation, a payment failure or payment success.

Typical subscription based campaign

Different Actions For Each Payment Failure

You will most likely want to send out different emails and take different actions on each failure. To do this you will need build in some decision logic so it knows which failure it is dealing with.

Decide which failure it is using tagging

First Payment Failure

On the first failure there are two typical approaches and it typically depends on what the subscription is for and how easy it is to pause access to that service. Either

  1. send a notification to the client to sort out their PayPal account, and that second attempt will be in 5 days and if that fails access to the service will be paused
  2. send a notification to the client to sort out their PayPal account, and inform them the second attempt will be in 5 days
Typical Handling Of the First Payment Failure

Second Payment Failure

On the second failure, either:

  1. temporarily remove access to the service and send an email to indicate that the service will be cancelled if the 3rd payment attempt fails; or
  2. send a email indicating that service will be withdrawn if the 3rd payment attempt fails
Typical Handling Of The Second Payment Failure

Third Payment Failure

On the third failure the typical approaches are

  1. remove access to the service by removing a membership tag, sending a HTTP post or sending an administration instruction to cancel the service; or
  2. send an email to administrator to instruct them to cancel the PayPal subscription maybe having tried to contact the member by telephone first
Typical Handling Of The Third Payment Failure

Payment Success

On a successful payment you need to clear any failure tags and potentially restore or extend the service associated with the subscription.

Typical Handling Of Payment Success

Infusionsoft Inventory

The full list of items associated with order, payment failures, cancellations and refunds is as follows:

Email templates

  • Thank You for your Subscription Order Email (maybe includes login details)
  • Subscription First Payment Failure Email
  • Subscription Second-Payment-Failure Email
  • Subscription Third-Payment-Failure Email
  • Subscription Cancellation Instructions Email (sent to an administrator)
  • Subscription Cancellation Email
  • Subscription Cancellation Completion Email – use at the end of the service period if your terms allow the member to retain the service until the end of the billing period
  • Subscription Refund Email

Tags And Tag Categories

For ease of use I operate 4 tag categories associated with member management

  • Memberships – tag indicates the level of membership
  • Cancellation – tag indicates the level of membership that has been cancelled or is pending cancellation
  • Payment Failures – tag indicates whether member is on first, second or third payment failure
  • Campaign Triggers – tag is used in an Other Event in a campaign and hence adding this tag puts the contact in a specific campaign and triggers a campaign sequence

When a buyer cancels typically remove the tag in the “Membership” category tag and add a “Cancellations” tag so we know they once were a member

The tags with categories in parenthesis used in the above campaign are:

  • Subscription Order (Campaign Triggers)
  • Subscription Cancellation (Campaign Triggers)
  • Subscription Refund (Campaign Triggers)
  • Subscription PAYF (Campaign Triggers)
  • Subscription PAYS (Campaign Triggers)
  • Subscription Member (Memberships)
  • Subscription PAYF-1 (Payment Failures
  • Subscription PAYF-2 (Payment Failures
  • Subscription PAYF-3 (Payment Failures
  • Subscription Cancel (Cancellations)
  • Subscription Cancel Pending (Cancellations)

Action Sets

Since the introduction of the Campaign Builder, the recommended practice is just to have the action set add a tag which triggers Other Event in the campaign.

The only exception to this is the order cancellation action set which cancels the subscription order first then sets a cancellation campaign trigger tag.

  • Subscription-Order-Success-Actions – adds Subscription order tag
  • Subscription-Order-Pending-Actions – adds Subscription order pending tag (optional)
  • Subscription-Order-Failure-Actions – adds Subscription order failure tag (optional)
  • Subscription-Cancellation-actions – cancels the order and adds either a subscription cancellation or a subscription cancellation pending tag
  • Subscription-Refund-Actions – adds Subscription refund tag (optional)
  • Subscription-PAYS-Actions – adds Subscription PAYS tag
  • Subscription-PAYF-Actions – adds Subscription PAYF tag


  • PAYF stands for “payment failure”
  • PAYS stands for “payment success”

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